Can Alcohol Cause Epilepsy?

There are a lot of questions people have about the topics of alcohol and epilepsy, including “can alcohol cause epilepsy?”

Answers to questions like “can alcohol cause epilepsy?” and additional information about the links between alcohol and seizures can be found below.

Alcohol and Epilepsy | Can Alcohol Cause Epilepsy?
Before delving into the topic of alcohol and epilepsy,  it’s important to first answer the question “what is epilepsy?”

Epilepsy is a condition that causes an individual to experience recurring seizures that are the result of a sudden spike of electrical activity in the brain. The brain becomes overloaded by this activity, causing a disturbance in the way its messaging cells function.

The primary symptom of epilepsy is repeated seizures. People with epilepsy experience three different types of seizures: idiopathic, cryptogenic and asymptomatic. An idiopathic seizure doesn’t have a known cause. Cryptogenic seizures have a cause, but the cause is unknown. The cause of an asymptomatic epileptic seizure is known.

There are a variety of treatment options available for those diagnosed with epilepsy. If a physician is able to locate the underlying cause of epilepsy, they may recommend surgery. Implants that administer regular vagus nerve stimulation may also be inserted into the body, or daily anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) may be taken. However, these methods don’t work for every patient.

There are millions of people who are affected by epilepsy and seizures. In the United States alone, an estimated 10 percent of people will experience a seizure during their life. Some of the causes of epilepsy can be attributed to genetics, head trauma, brain conditions, infectious diseases and brain damage that occurs before birth.

Regarding the conversation surrounding alcohol and epilepsy, there are some different ways to approach this topic. First, people might wonder “can alcohol cause epilepsy?” but they also may wonder “can drink alcohol if you have epilepsy?” Both questions are answered below.

Now to answer the question “can alcohol cause epilepsy?”

Alcohol can cause seizures, but not necessarily epilepsy. Seizures caused by alcohol are usually classified as alcohol-induced seizures. This helps distinguish them from seizures that occur for other reasons, such as genetics. In many cases, alcohol-induced seizures are not considered epilepsy, since alcohol use isn’t always named as one of the possible causes of epilepsy.

With that being said, alcohol use and epilepsy are related to one another. One scenario where there can be a combination of alcohol and epilepsy symptoms is when someone experiences alcohol poisoning. When someone drinks a large amount, they may experience seizures and other symptoms including confusion, loss of consciousness and irregular heart rate. When someone suffers from a seizure related to excessive drinking, the only thing bystanders can do is try and keep them safe until emergency help arrives. Following the use of excessive alcohol and epilepsy symptoms, a person may have nutritional deficiencies and other health problems that need to be addressed. Seizures caused by binge drinking can also lead to severe dehydration and loss of bladder and bowel control.

There’s another topic relevant to the discussion of alcohol and epilepsy, and that’s seizures that occur when someone is going through alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous or life-threatening, and one of the reasons is because of the risk of seizures. More specifically, a person may go through grand mal seizures during withdrawal. Some of the warning signs that this type of seizure is about to occur can include involuntary screaming, intense headaches and confusion. Someone who is about to experience a grand mal seizure may also start to smell strange odors or feel extremely anxious.

There’s a third reason the topics of alcohol and epilepsy are talked about together. People frequently wonder “can alcohol cause epilepsy symptoms, like seizures, if a person does not drink excessively?” The answer is yes. If a person has an intolerance or “allergy” to alcohol and they drink, they may experience seizures as a side effect. These seizures are similar to those that result from alcohol poisoning.

So, can alcohol cause epilepsy? Not in the clinical sense exactly, but seizures can be related to alcohol use or alcohol withdrawals. However, alcohol and epilepsy seem to go hand-in-hand because of the potential for seizures.

Along with linking alcohol and epilepsy, some people wonder if they can drink if they have epilepsy. If you do have epilepsy and take anti-epileptic drugs, you should heed some warnings before drinking alcohol.

When it comes to alcohol and epilepsy drugs, it’s important to be aware that you may be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Regardless, you should always make sure you’re taking your AEDs, even if you plan to drink. If you drink more than 200 grams of alcohol a day, there is a 15 to 20 percent higher risk of experiencing a seizure. Epilepsy may also put you at a higher risk for withdrawal seizures.

The general recommendation with alcohol and epilepsy is that you drink moderately and stay aware of how you feel, since you may be more sensitive to alcohol than people who don’t have epilepsy.

So, can alcohol cause epilepsy? Alcohol use can lead to seizures, but it doesn’t necessarily cause epilepsy. Also, if you already have epilepsy and want to drink alcohol, you should always speak to your physician first and make sure that it’s safe.

Can Alcohol Cause Epilepsy?
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